clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Indiana and other college football teams could make a bowl game at 5-7. Here's how.

New, comments

With 40 bowl games, 80 .500 or better teams are needed to fill out the bowl slots. As the weeks continue, it's looking more and more likely that we're not going to get to that number.

Matt Kryger-USA TODAY Sports

College football bowl games are fun and good -- the more of them, the better.

There are too many college bowl games! Participation trophies! WUSSIFICATION of America!

Regardless of your feelings on whether or not too many exist, college football bowl games are here to stay en masse. They're massive ratings boons for networks, huge opportunities for #brands, and cool travel opportunities for fans. And while it's another instance of the college football cartel making millions off unpaid athletes, it is the closest these players will receive to some sort of extra compensation -- receiving a free vacation and buckets and buckets of free stuff from bowl sponsors. It's not great, but it's what we have, and it's better than nothing.

Personally, I love bowl games. I love all of them. There is not a better way to evade family around the holidays than by posting up in a dark basement with beer-in-hand and watching a MAC and C-USA team play in a game sponsored by a chicken-seller. Some people enjoy holiday shopping and Santa Claus. Some people enjoy a fight on a Monday afternoon in Miami between Memphis and mormons. You may be of the former. I am of the latter, and I will watch every dang one of them. Still, bowl season often presents a problem for me because I cheer for Indiana football -- and Indiana does not go to many bowl games.

These are things you know: Indiana has four games left -- two against top 16 teams at home, two against possibly inferior opponents on the road. They need two wins to gain "bowl eligibility" at 6-6. They might get there. They might not. I don't know.

But, wait, would one win be enough to possibly get Indiana to a bowl game?

Actually, yeah, maybe. Indiana, in theory, could possibly clinch a trip to a bowl game with a win over Iowa on Saturday. Here's how.

62.5% percent of all FBS teams need to get to 6 wins to fill all bowls. It's unlikely to happen.

That's 80 teams. With four weeks left in the season, here's how many bowl eligible teams each conference has:

Bowl Teams, Week 10
Conference # of 6 win teams
American 4
ACC 5
Big 12 4
Big Ten 7
C-USA 4
Indep. 2
MAC 2
MWC 2
Pac-12 3
SEC 6
Sun Belt 2

That's 42 teams. We're halfway there. That means 38 eligible teams that are not already at 6 wins have to get there over the next four games. So, let's look at how many teams are on the verge of bowl eligibility with 4 or 5 wins.

Almost Bowling, Week 10
Conference # of 4/5 win teams
American 5
ACC 4
Big 12 1
Big Ten 3
C-USA 2
Indep. 0
MAC 5
MWC 5
Pac-12 8
SEC 6
Sun Belt 1

That's exactly 40 teams that have 4-5 wins that would need to squeeze out one or two wins out of their final 3 or 4 games. If one team fail to make that mark off this list, then we'd need a team that's won three or less games in the first two thirds of the season to equal that total or better it in the final third. That's unlikely. Consider this, too: four teams on this list (UConn, East Carolina, Virginia Tech, Florida International) already sit at 4-5 with three games left.

Schedule's don't help many of those teams that need those extra wins, too. 4-win Minnesota, for example, would need two wins from the lot of Ohio State, Iowa, Illinois, and Wisconsin. 4-win Illinois needs two from Purdue, Ohio State, Minnesota, and Northwestern. 4-win Missouri needs two from Mississippi State, BYU, Tennessee, and Arkansas. 4-win Arkansas needs two from Ole Miss, LSU, Mississippi State, and Missouri. 4-win Louisville needs two from Syracuse, Virginia, Pitt, and Kentucky. Kentucky needs two from Georgia, Vanderbilt, Charlotte, and Louisville. Arizona State needs two from 5-3 Washington State, 4-4 Washington, 5-4 Arizona, and 5-3 California. Indiana has one of the easier dang roads to six wins -- because all of these almost-bowl eligible teams still have to play each other.

Bottom line: We're already well-behind the eight-ball in getting to 80 eligible 6-win teams, and it's probably not happening.

Okay, so what happens if we don't have 80 .500 teams?

The NCAA has laid out a selection process for filling remaining bowls, which would proceed as follows:

  1. Teams finishing with a 6-6 record with one win over a FCS team that would not normally count as a win for bowling purposes because they do not meet scholarship criteria. This includes schools from the Pioneer League, Ivy League, NEC, and Patriot League, such as Butler. It wouldn't apply to any team this season.
  2. 6-6 teams with wins over two FCS schools. Boston College & North Carolina. Carolina already has 7 wins -- BC would need to win out for this provision to apply.
  3. 6-7 teams with loss 7 coming in the conference championship game. Again, probably not happening barring something crazy in the Mountain West. Which is possible, but.
  4. 6-7 teams that play a 13-game schedule, due to the Hawaii exception. Colorado lost a road non-conference game to start the year at Hawaii -- and the NCAA allows for an extra home game to offset the cost of the trip. If they're able to win two of their final four, they'll finish 6-7 and likely be bowl-eligible.
  5. Bowl-eligible teams that are in year two of their FCS-FBS transition period. Charlotte's not getting to six wins. Move on.
  6. 5-7 teams, in order of APR, are available to fill remaining bowl slots. Teams playing two FCS teams (Boston College) are not eligible to fill bowls as 5-7 teams, no matter their APR score.
Here's how that "bowl bubble" with 5-7 teams and APR rankings sits currently.

Non-Bowl-Eligible FBS Teams with More Than Two Wins, Ranked By APR Score

School APR Record
Nebraska 985 3-6
Utah State 985 5-3
Vanderbilt 983 3-5
Rutgers 980 3-5
Air Force 980 5-3
Georgia Tech 978 3-6
Virginia Tech 977 4-5
Indiana 977 4-4
Louisville 977 4-4
Washington 977 4-4
Missouri 976 4-4
Kansas State 976 3-4
San Jose State 975 4-4
South Carolina 975 3-5
Minnesota 975 4-4
Maryland 973 2-6
Illinois 973 4-4
Rice 973 4-4
MTSU 973 3-5
USF 970 4-4
Northern Illinois 970 5-3
Syracuse 968 3-5
Virginia 967 3-6
Oregon 967 5-3
Purdue 963 2-6
Cincinnati 962 5-3
Arizona 961 5-4
UCONN 960 4-5
Ball State 958 3-6
Texas State 958 2-5
Colorado 957 4-5
Western Michigan 955 5-3
Ohio 955 5-3
UL-Lafayette 953 3-4
Iowa State 951 3-5
Washington State 951 5-3
Arkansas State 951 5-3
East Carolina 950 4-5
Central Michigan 949 5-4
Fresno State 949 2-6
Arizona State 949 4-4
Buffalo 948 4-4
USC 948 5-3
Akron 974 3-5
Kent State 945 3-5
New Mexico 945 4-4
Tennessee 945 4-4
Kentucky 945 4-4
Colorado State 944 3-5
Nevada 943 4-4
West Virginia 942 3-5
California 941 5-3
Tulsa 941 4-4
Georgia State 940 2-5
Arkansas 938 4-4
UNLV 937 2-6
Troy 937 2-6
Texas Tech 936 5-4
FIU 933 4-5
See, do well in school kids and you'll get to go to a bowl game! Indiana's very, very good APR score of 977 could be a major benefit if the FBS isn't able to come up with 80 6-6 teams. More likely than not, every team ahead of Indiana on this list has a better chance to not end up 5-7 than they do ending up in this scenario -- whether north or south of that college football win-loss purgatory. Utah State and Air Force are seemingly poised to end up well north of that mark with only one conference loss today, while Nebraska and Georgia Tech would need two wins in three tough remaining conference games just to have a shot in this scenario. Vanderbilt would need an unlikely two game split from Florida, Tennessee, Kentucky, and Texas A&M to get to the mark, too. Rutgers might be the best candidate ranked above the Hoosiers in APR to get to 5-7 -- the Scarlet Knights have winnable matchups against Nebraska, Army, and Maryland remaining after a trip to Michigan.

After that, there's a glut of current 4-win teams with a 977 APR score that would be in the mix for unfilled bowl slots -- Indiana, Virginia Tech, Louisville, and Washington. Frank Beamer has trips to Georgia Tech and Virginia remaining, as well as his home finale against North Carolina. Chris Petersen's Huskies have Utah and Washington at home, with trips to Arizona State and Oregon State sandwiched in the middle. Louisville, as mentioned, gets Syracuse and Virginia at home -- prior to finishing the year on the road at Pitt and Kentucky. Simply stated, yes, it's more than reasonable to think all of these teams could finish 5-7.

Okay, what would happen in that scenario -- if these four teams were tied atop the APR rankings of eligible 5-7 teams with only one spot available?

Hope it doesn't come to that? The NCAA hasn't accounted for this sort of thing, but common sense says conference tie-ins, sponsors, and the individual bowl leadership committees would likely play a factor in hand-selecting one of the four. It's safe to say the idea of hosting Frank Beamer's final college game would be super enticing to about every bowl game in the country -- especially those needing to attract attention to a game involving a 5-7 team.

Bottom line: Indiana probably has a pretty good chance to make a bowl game at 5-7.

But let's just hope FBS is able to provide 80 .500-or-better teams, for the sake of all our sanity.